Book Review: Maile Meloy’s “Do Not Become Alarmed”

Disclaimer: If you don’t have a solid chunk of free time– meaning an entire afternoon– do not even attempt to read Maile Meloy’s newest novel, “Do Not Become Alarmed,” as readers will become instantly captivated by the thriller’s suspenseful and twisty plot.Β 

“Do Not Become Alarmed” tells the story of two cousins, Liv, a film producer, and Nora, a stay at home mom, their husbands, Benjamin and Raymond, and their four combined children, who embark on what initially appears to be a dream vacation. They board a luxury cruise ship destined for a Central American nation (which I assume to be Costa Rica), but odd things begin to occur aboard the ocean liner. Nothing, however, compares to the moment all of the children go missing during an offshore excursion, alongside Isabel and Hector, two siblings who befriended them on the ship.

The novel ominously opens to an epigraph from Teddy Roosevelt, which warns, “”Americans learn only from catastrophe, and not from experience.” Although Liv and Nora are under the impression that they are headed on a wonderful trip with their families, their vacation turns out to be a traumatic learning experience for every person in the novel– themselves, their husbands, the children, and the many other characters involved in this complex story.

It is wildly impressive that Meloy tells such an intricate story with multiple main characters, each of whom are crucial to the plot. We, as readers, are lucky enough to gain insight to their individual perspectives, and each chapter gracefully jumps from one point of view to another.Β Meloy also excellently sheds light on privilege and luck and incorporates some dark humor into the novel.

The fate behind the six missing children who seemed to disappear into thin air is what unfolds in the middle and final stages of the novel, and I promise that you will not be able to put the book down. There are countless unexpected twists and turns, and I stayed up until 3am last night, hanging on every word, wondering what could possibly come next.

I immediately knew I had to write a review, as I read it in a single sitting, and this is by far the best book I have read this year. Simply put, Meloy is a brilliant storyteller, “Do Not Become Alarmed” is a must-read, and the storyline will be sure to keep you up at night, wondering about luck, fate, and everything in between.

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